Become a Die-hard Optimist
  By Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Die-hard optimists tend to live long: longer than pessimists, for sure.  How do they do that?  By taking better care of themselves.  They know they are worth the effort and they believe their efforts are worth the trouble.  When ill, optimists are more likely to change their unhealthy lifestyle and behaviors.  Why?  Because they are hopeful that such changes will improve their health.  Pessimists may not try anything beyond taking medication. 
No matter how terrible, negative events can't kill us.  But, our explanation of what happens to us, can.  Be careful how you interpret the negative events.  Tomorrow's success is determined by how you explain to yourself your failures of yesterday and today   
Optimists view negative events in a way that is less damaging to their self-confidence and sustains their hope and trust in the universe. To explain negative events to themselves, they use the "optimistic explanatory style" called TSE.  In the optimistic explanatory style, negative and unpleasant events are explained as Temporary, Specific, and External (TSE).  
Take for example an optimist who is criticized by his boss for a report he just submitted.    The optimist explains it to himself in the TSE style as follows:  
"The boss will soon realize my overall value to the company."  Thus, the disapproval is temporary. 
"Except for this report, the boss has expressed satisfaction with other reports I submitted in the past."  Note that the criticism is specific to the report. 
"Maybe the boss is just having a bad day."  In thinking, "it's not me, it's the boss,"  the criticism is not taken personally, but externalized.  
 A pessimist does the opposite.  In a pessimistic explanatory style, a negative event is explained as Permanent, Pervasive, and Personal, (the 3 Ps). To continue with the boss example, a pessimist would explain it, as follows:  
"The boss will never have any respect for me from now on"  Thus, the boss' displeasure is interpreted as permanent rather than temporary. 
"I never do anything right."   Self-criticism is made pervasive instead of specific. 
"I am a flop."  The event is personalized rather than externalized.    
Optimists neither become easily depressed nor do they give up quickly when they fail or experience other disappointments.  When optimists fail, they utilize failure for a mid-course correction.  When pessimists fail, they take it as a mark of their personal failure and a confirmation of their belief that there is no point in trying anything new.  
Anyone can learn to be an optimist if he or she practices the method just described.  File: optimism;  5/10/98 index: optimism, depression, healthy

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